When I was still actively showing horses, ribbons and high scores were two very different things for me. Some days, I'd walk away with multiple blues, but wasn't pleased with my performance, or my score. I'd won because I'd outscored the competition, but given it wasn't my best riding, it wasn't a feel-good win. Conversely, some days I wouldn't win anything, but would have had an excellent ride, the kind where all the training clicked into place, when my horse and I communicated beautifully. For me, joy existed not in winning, but in improving, in becoming a better rider.
Have you ever seen a singer interviewed, and when asked to name his or her favorite song off the album, the answer is something obscure, that never made it as a single, definitely not the most popular track on the album?
What I'm getting at is this: for me, Walking Wounded was a writing victory. It was the result of meticulous planning and attention to detail, a concerted effort to try something new, to write each chapter, each scene, each sentence with total purpose. A book that came about from sitting at the table surrounded by notebooks, and maps, and grainy black and white film footage of a war I thankfully never had to see firsthand. Hours spent silently interviewing Luke, and Hal, and Will, and Tara.
Walking Wounded is my no-ribbon, high score. Writing that book helped me become a better writer, and I love it for that - among other reasons.
On Instagram, I shared Luke's dissociative moment at Sandy's table where he recalls Sadie's funeral, and of course five minutes after that I realized what my absolute favorite moment of the book is: typical.
It's this, near the end:
Maybe a half hour passes before Luke works up the courage to clear his throat and ask, “So…Hal’s Finn, isn’t he? That’s who you think of him as.”
Will glances over, his smile patient and kind, and Luke wonders how he ever thought this man might hate him. “No, son. You’re Finn.” He shifts a little closer in his chair. “But you get to live.”
By the end of the book, Luke realizes that his view of himself, and the people around him, is just that - his view. And that it isn't necessarily accurate. I loved teasing that Luke and Will were similar characters - and they are, for sure, they have a lot in common - but this reveal from Will forces him to look at himself, and his role in the lives of others, differently. He's always seem himself as the sidekick, the one who wasn't enough, and always assumed that Hal, a shining star in his eyes, was the vibrant, wild, violent, passionate sun of their friendship. What he sees, finally, is that he is the wild sun, and that patient, steady, dependable Hal has always been the one in orbit.